MANILA — The inter-agency task force leading the country's COVID-19 response said on Friday Filipinos being repatriated would be exempted from a travel ban meant to keep out the Delta COVID-19 variant first detected in India.
The Philippines previously suspended the entry of travelers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Oman and the United Arab Emirates until June 15.
In case of Philippine government-organized repatriation from these countries, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration "shall conduct prior coordination with each other," said IATF and Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque.
They must also coordinate with the bureau of quarantine, the transportation department and its One-Stop Shop, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and the task group managing returning Filipinos from abroad, "at least 48 hours prior to the departure from the country of origin," he said.
The IATF also "exempted non-Philippine government repatriation efforts" from the entry restrictions, said task force and Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque.
"In the case of non-Philippine government repatriation, all Filipino repatriates from the countries with travel restrictions must present a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 48 hours prior to boarding the aircraft or vessel," Roque said in a statement.
"The airline or the shipping line is responsible to check on this requirement. A copy of the negative RT-PCR test result of the repatriate shall be submitted to the BOQ upon arrival in the port of entry in the Philippines," he added.
Repatriates from countries covered by the travel restrictions shall undergo a 14-day facility-based quarantine from the date of arrival in the Philippines, said Roque.
Authorities are on guard against the Delta COVID-19 variant.
It has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as among the 4 COVID-19 variants of concern due to evidence that they spread more easily, likely causing the devastating outbreak in India.
India hosts about 2,000 Filipino workers.
Since last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the repatriation of some 564,000 overseas Filipino workers, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said on Thursday.
The Philippines has detected at least 13 cases of the Delta COVID-19 variant. It also previously recorded cases of a variant first detected in Britain and another one first discovered in South Africa, as well as a homegrown P.3 variant.
With about 2 million coronavirus infections and some 21,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 tally in Southeast Asia.
– With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News and Reuters